Featuring the Shrine of St Winefride at Holywell in north Wales on its cover, the 2024 Official Catholic Directory of England & Wales is now available for purchase.
The Catholic Directory has a history going back more than 200 years, giving us a fascinating insight into the early re-emergence of the Catholic Church in these islands after centuries of suppression and isolation.
Opinions differ as to whether the first edition was printed in 1806 or 1839, but by 1848 – the date of the earliest volume in our collection, it’s clear that within just a few decades after the Catholic Relief act of 1829, the Catholic Church was already working tireless to re-establish itself across England & Wales.
Much of this was down to the efforts of The Rt Rev Thomas Griffiths, SDD, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, who helped establish numerous new churches and chapels, and schools ‘for the instruction of the children of the poor’, both in London and further afield. By this time there were 912 working Catholic priests in England and Wales, but governance was through vicars apostolic, with no bishops and there was no diocesan or parish organisation.
On 29th September, 1850, by the Bull Universalis Ecclesiae, Pius IX restored the Catholic hierarchy in England, partly to better administer to the large number of Catholic Irish flocking into England after the Irish Famine. For the first time since the reign of Mary Tudor (1555-1558), Catholics now had a a full hierarchy consistent with that of Catholic countries.
Thirteen sees and the archdiocese of Westminster were established, and the Catholic Church in England & Wales had finally taken on the form and structure we recognise today.
Every year since, The Official Catholic Directory of England & Wales has faithfully reflected the changes in personnel, structure and organisation of our local Church. It remains the ONLY comprehensive reference guide to the structures of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
“The Catholic Directory is not just a vitally important reference work, but a fascinating volume to read in its own right,” says Joseph Kelly, who edits the publication on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales.
“The extent and work of the Catholic Church across England and Wales is immense, and the directory lays out just how much we Catholics continue to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities we live and work in.
“I was particularly pleased that St Winefride’s Shrine, Holywell was chosen for the cover image this year, as it lies just a few miles away from where I live, and has always had a central place in our family life,” said Mr Kelly.
At the Catholic Bishops’ recent plenary meeting it was agreed to elevate St Winefride’s to the status of a National Shrine, in recognition of the fact that it has a tradition of unbroken Catholic pilgrimage stretching back to at least 1115.
“Elevating Holywell to national status is something that has been talked about in the Diocese of Wrexham for many decades,” said Bishop Peter Brignall, “and comes at a time when the legend of St Winefride has a particular contemporary resonance.
“One of the things that I inaugurated this year, drawing on the story of Winefride and sexual abuse of her and the attack upon her, was seeking to make Holywell a place of consolation for those who have suffered similarly in their own lives in the 21st century.
“Drawing on the great tradition of healing in Holywell, that healing that comes through the intercession of Winefride through the Grace of God – that those who in our own time, and particularly women who have been domestically or sexually abused or suffered violence of any sort, and who are inevitably traumatised by this, may find at Holywell a consolation, a hope, some comfort, some reconciliation – and even that they are healed,” said Bishop Peter.
The 2024 Catholic Directory has once again been published in a luxury hardbound format, comprising more than 900 pages of information on the Catholic Church in England & Wales. This year more than 2,000 changes and updates have been made, reflecting the changes and restructurings that have been made by dioceses and Catholic organisations post the Covid pandemic.
“As always we’re incredibly grateful to the may people who’ve assisted in providing the information to update the directory, and I’d also like to extend a special thank you to the individuals and organisations who’ve supported the project with advertising. I’d really commend our Catholic community to support them in return,” said Mr Kelly.
Pic: Bishop Peter Brignall and King Charles III chatting during a visit His Royal Highness paid to St Winefride’s (as Prince Charles) in July 2021.
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